I’m writing this post Tuesday afternoon–we’re just about a week from the end of the regular season–and the Mariners are determined to be the Mariners.
A week ago, they had a reasonably solid grip on the playoffs, with a five game lead over the next closest team. Not a cinch, but wildly encouraging for those of us who are old enough to remember the last time the Ms played a post-season game.
There are, by the way, at least a dozen players on their 40 Man Roster who are too young to remember anything from October 22, 2001.
But again, Mariners: a subset of Seattle sports. They’ve managed to lose seven of their past ten games, and only the fact that the Orioles haven’t managed to do any better than .500 has kept Seattle in that third Wild Card spot. Nineteen games remaining: ten for Seattle, nine for Baltimore. Six Orioles’ losses, Mariners’ wins, or any combination adding up to six eliminates Baltimore and probably* clinches a playoff spot for Seattle.
* Chicago and Minnesota could still be spoilers. But for the Twins to boot Seattle out of the playoffs would require them to win all of their remaining games and Seattle to lose all of theirs. Even for a Seattle team, that’s a stretch. Chicago’s chances aren’t much better: three Seattle wins in these last ten games–the same record they’ve accumulated over the past week and a half, remember–would end Chicago’s run.
But, the Baseball Gods forbid the Race For the Playoffs to be settled without drama. And, yes, one has to admire the Ms’ willingness to look bad* in the interest of keeping interest high. Let’s face it, this is Seattle we’re talking about. As soon as the Mariners clinch–assuming they do–attendance at T-Mob is going to crater for the rest of the regular season. (Seattle is far from unique in that regard: there’s a reason why teams schedule special games–Fan Appreciation Day, Oktoberfest, Kids Run the Bases, and suchlike–during the last week of the season. Can’t get butts in seats without some intrigue; can’t find some excitement? Invent some!)
* Giving up eleven runs in one inning, and still losing by a single run? That’s drama, that is.
But Seattle teams excel at stretching drama, often until it snaps in their faces. How many times this century have the Mariners been eliminated on the last day of the season? I won’t be a bit surprised if this year’s postseason isn’t settled until the final games of the season*.
* Wednesday, October 5. Mariners/Tigers, Orioles/Blue Jays, and (for the sake of completeness) White Sox/Twins.
Of course, it being a work day, with all games starting at 4:00 (give or take a few minutes) I won’t get to watch any of them.
The Baseball Gods are cruel. It’s a well-known fact.
Mind you, I’d love to see both the Mariners and Orioles make the playoffs, even if it did mean they’d be facing each other. It could happen: Tampa Bay is only half a game ahead of the Mariners, and six of their last nine games will be against teams that have clinched playoff spots. If they were to go, say, 3-6, while the Mariners go 5-5, all Baltimore would have to do snag the last slot would be winning eight of nine*. A pair of four-game winning streaks would do it. Happens all the time, right?
* Unfortunately, Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker–head to head record–over both Seattle and Baltimore.
Okay, it’s unlikely to happen. But you gotta admit, the odds are slightly better than the Twins’ chances of playing past next Wednesday. (Before any games were played Tuesday, FiveThirtyEight had the Orioles odds at 1%–which does, of course, include the possibility of leapfrogging Seattle, but not Tampa Bay–and Minnesota’s at the uninformative “<1%”*.
* Come on, gang, tell us how much less than one percent they are!
As I said, here we are. The thrill of defeat, the agony of victory, isn’t that how it goes? Close enough, anyway.
See you at the ballpark.